Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday pushed President Biden to continue evacuation efforts beyond an end-of-the-month deadline and argued that the messy exit from Afghanistan is “a lot worse than Saigon in 1975.”
“The president needs to forget about the August 31 deadline. … Extend the deadline, get outside the perimeter, make sure that every single American who wants to leave is able to get out with our assistance and our Afghan allies,” McConnell said during a Fox News interview on Tuesday.
“The Taliban should not be allowed to tell us how long we are there to get our personnel out. That’s our decision, not theirs,” McConnell added.
Biden is under growing pressure to extend the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to help evacuate all American citizens and Afghan allies, even though it would risk increasing tensions with the Taliban.
Biden has previously said the United States would stay past the end of August in order to evacuate Americans but has opened the door to extending the deadline also for tens of thousands of Afghans who aided the U.S. military and their families.
Biden is expected to make a decision on Tuesday about whether to extend the deadline. Though there have days of chaos outside the airport in Kabul, the United States has been steadily increased evacuations out of Afghanistan.
Top Democrats in the House have cast doubt on the ability for the United States to hit the Aug. 31 deadline. Biden had initially set Sept. 11 as the deadline for withdrawal earlier this year, but sped up his plans in recent months.
“I think it’s possible, but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of [Special Immigrant Visa holders], the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters
after a closed-door briefing on Monday evening.
Though Democrats largely agree with Biden’s ultimate goal of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, he’s faced criticism from high-ranking members of his own party over the execution of that strategy.
Republicans, meanwhile, have blasted Biden for days. Though some GOP lawmakers supported then-President Trump’s decision to make a deal with the Taliban and plan to pull U.S. troops, McConnell has warned for years against withdrawing the U.S. military.
He added on Tuesday that he thought the decision was a “gargantuan mistake.”
“It’s a stain on our reputation,” he said. “This is considerably worse than the fall of Saigon.”